Ceramic DM autumn '03(final judegment: new ceramic dm champ!)

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First Post
barsoomcore said:
Hey, don't let that slow you down! A little smack-talk never goes to waste around here...
Especially if it involves Shakespeare....

( I think i'll always have fond memories of our little Shakspearean trash-talking rampage. Good fun)


First Post
Sparky said:
Which? The first to-be-continued one?
I'd sure like to see the rest of that one, too!

I was sure you'd paste the 'Cat with that one if you'd gone on with it--if only he hadn't seduced you with his Jedi mind tricks during the smack. . .

but then, of course, you'd be sitting there biting your nails about now about whether your chapter 3 was up to Mythago's snuff . . .

ah, that would have been a fine, fine match up.

Really, there was no possible outcome for this event that wouldn't have had me all a-quiver.

Damn good writing, all.


First Post
mythago said:
You know, even if Piratecat comes in here and gives me a whuppin' like I never had, I think I just won! :D

It's fun to watch sweet, innocent Sialia break tough-as-nails, seen-and-done-it-all Mythago every so often. ;)

Can't wait to see how this contest comes out!!!


Swack-Iron said:
It's fun to watch sweet, innocent Sialia break tough-as-nails, seen-and-done-it-all Mythago every so often. ;)

It seems only fair that it flow the other way once in a while.



Ceramic DM Round 3: Mythago vs. Piratecat

Hunting Anna

Three days ago, I got married. It was the same day my new wife Anna disappeared.

The ceremony had been perfect, an outdoor wedding on a beautiful spring day. I didn’t invite many friends, because most of my friends are doing five-to-twenty upstate, and they wouldn’t necessarily clean up well. The biggest frustration had been some absent relatives and a no-show by the flower girl, my wife’s three year old niece Melissa. Just before the ceremony I finally tracked down my sister-in-law and asked where her daughter was. Anna’s sister just gave me a blank and confused look and slowly said that she was sorry. “Sick?” I asked, aggrieved at the unexpected change. She nodded slowly, and then shook her head in confusion or regret. Probably catching, I thought to myself, so we scratched the flower girl from the ceremony and thought little more of it. I had other things on my mind.

I wish I had paid attention.

The change happened after dinner. Anna was standing behind me at the table, laughing, hands on her hip as she looked down at a card we’d just been given. And then something roared in my ears and things… were somehow different.

I looked up, head swimming. Anna still stood behind me, silent, an unmoving smile frozen on her face. I spoke to her and she didn’t answer. Jokingly, I waved my hand in front of her face. She didn’t blink. I grasped her wrist; the skin was still warm and pliable, but her muscles were as stiff as an iron rod.

I jumped to my feet and stared into her face, but I was looking into the eyes of a beautiful mannequin. There was no life, no motion there at all. I checked, and she wasn’t breathing. I think that’s when I began to panic. I turned and yelled for help, shouting over the music for someone to call 911.

The band didn’t stop playing. There was a momentary lull in the chatter of the guests, and then people went right back to their conversations.

I tried again, shouting for help and calling for a doctor. Behind me, my new wife stood rigidly at attention. On the dance floor, couples paused for a beat and then continued with the dance. Nothing.

I grabbed a waiter by the arm. “You!” I screamed in his face, spittle spraying from my mouth. “The bride is sick! Get a doctor!”

He looked baffled as he tried to balance his dish tray. It tipped and crashed at my feet, but I didn’t even notice. The man looked at me, angry and trying not to show it. “Who, sir?”

I blinked. “Anna! My wife, the bride!”

“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know who that is.”

I gestured with a sweeping arm towards Anna’s unyielding body, now knocked partially over and leaning at an angle against the wall. “The BRIDE!” I watched his eyes unfocus slightly. The man smiled politely, nodded, and went back on his way towards the kitchen. When he reemerged, it was to pick up the fallen dishes.

I think that’s when I started to cry.

* * *

Twelve minutes later, I had Anna by one leg and was hauling her out to the car. No one at the reception could comprehend who she was. They knew that they were at a wedding, they knew I was the one getting married when I was right in front of them, but none of them could even recognize the concept of Anna. Even when I dragged her out across the middle of the dance floor, our families and friends just waltzed around us. I stole someone’s cell phone and tried 911, too; the operator kept hanging up on me in mid-sentence. Bastard.

As I pulled my bride’s stiffened body past the flowering bushes and down the outside stairs, I considered the possibility that I was dreaming. It didn’t feel like it, though; I was wracking my brains for what I should do. The hospital, maybe? A crazed little laugh trickled from between my lips. We had no car, since we both came in limos, so I popped the lock on someone’s Mitsubishi and tossed my top hat onto the front seat before hotwiring the ignition. Then I hefted the stiff body into the back of the car. Panting, I paused for a breath of air as I flicked away some of the insects buzzing around my head.

“Excuse me. Sir?”

I spun, wild eyed. “You!” My pointing finger fixed on the young boy soliciting donations for his local softball team. I must have startled him. “You see her, don’t you?”

He backed away, terrified. “No. Who?”

I choked back a sob and turned to show him Anna, to make him SEE her, but I was utterly alone in the parking lot. The bugs had gone, the boy was fleeing, and Anna’s body had completely disappeared.

* * *

I eventually learned that I had to be careful when asking around for help. One mention of Anna’s name, and the person I was talking to completely lost focus. Even worse, Anna wasn’t the only one missing. My mother, my uncle… when I started to make calls, no one I spoke to could even remember them. Acting on a hunch, I called Anna’s sister and asked her again about my no-show flower girl. “I don’t have any children, you know that,” she told me. “Melissa’s a pretty name, though.”

Uh huh.

Finally I got a lead when my elderly grandmother recommended an agency at the corner of Topher and Haynes. “He’ll be able to help you, Daniel,” she said as she absentmindedly rolled her glass eyeball around inside her eye socket with one arthritic finger. “He’s very good. Helped us once, when your grandfather made a bad enemy out in India. Whatever you need, he’s your man. Tell him Sadie says hi.” Roll, roll. Now empty white looked out at me from her left eye.

“Thanks, Grandma. I wish you wouldn’t do that thing with your eye, though.”

She smiled bitterly and tapped one fingernail on the eyeball as a nurse came into the room with a plateful of strained squash. “An old lady has to have her fun. Now then, sweetie, when are you going to meet a nice girl and get married?”

* * *

A tall and gorgeous blond with a furious expression on her face stalked past me as I made my way into the seedy building. I got out of her way, but I absentmindedly dipped her wallet out of her open purse as she passed. Force of habit. Then I paused outside the office door, because particles of glass were crunching under my feet. Someone had smashed the glass window on the door. I could just make out the lettering of “…ington …igations” in the shattered pieces of glass littering the tiled hallway. I was in the right place.

“Come on in,” chortled a dirty little voice from inside the office. He sounded amused. I looked through the hole in the glass and I saw a squat man on the far side of a dark and dingy office. A ceiling fan slowly pushed rancid cigar smoke through the air, and the man had his scuffed shoes up on the desk. The room smelled like old shoes, and had nothing of obvious value in it. This was Louis Covington, of Covington Investigations. I glanced over to see the degenerate little troll toasting the air with a near-empty bottle of cheap bourbon. Cautiously, I made my way through the door.

“What happened here?” I asked, gesturing at what was left of the door. Covington smirked like an oversized rodent who had just scared away a cat.

“Disgruntled ex-client in what’s turned into a divorce case. Wanted a refund, and didn’t take ‘no’ very gracefully.” He eyed me suspiciously. “You don’t want a refund, though.”

“No. My name is Daniel Strom. My wife is missing.”

“Who are you?”

“I just told you.”

His eyes bored into me like icepicks. “No, who are you?”

I understood. “I’m an airline transportation consultant.” He kept looking at me, and the silence stretched out. I sighed and put my head in my hands. “No I’m not. I’m a thief. Did that blond pay you?” I tossed her wallet onto his desk. He gave me a dirty look, but I noticed that he kept the wallet. “I’m mostly an ex-thief now, actually,” I corrected myself. “I quit when I got married.”

He laughed, and it was an ugly sound. “Sure you did. Don’t matter to me.” His cigar stabbed towards me to punctuate his sentence. “Why come to me, then? Lots of folks do missing persons, and they charge less.”

I shook my head. “Not missing. Missing.” Understanding dawned in the man’s dark and beady eyes. He let out a breath of foul-smelling air.

“Total loss of memory? Cogency fade? Disassociative behavior?” Dumbfounded, I nodded and started to speak. He cut me off. “Shut up, punk. Wait.” Taking another swig of bourbon, he began to chant, a wailing and discordant verse that sent shivers up and down my spine. When he finished a moment later, it was noticeably darker in the already dim office. “Okay, I’m shielded. Spill it.”

I did. When I had finished, he was looking at me speculatively. His voice was raw. “Interesting combination of a Siberian isolation curse and an African paralyzation spell. Someone has some imagination, and they want your bird to literally disappear without a trace. I don’t know how they transported her, though.” He clucked his tongue at me. “I’d say that someone doesn’t like her, but she’s not the target. You are.”

I was still trying to come to terms with the word ‘curse.’ “What?”

“Don’t be stupid. Whoever this is, he likely has a grudge against you or your family, and he’s grabbing family members to make his point. You go home. I’ll do some digging and see what I can come up with.” His eyes narrowed with greed. “Assuming you can afford my fee? I’m not cheap.”

I figured that if he got me Anna back, he’d be worth everything I had in the world. I kept enough of my faculties not to tell him that. Instead I just pointed towards where he hid the stolen wallet. “Oh, and you’ve met my grandmother before. Sadie says hi.”

He looked up, eyes seeing something that had happened a long time ago, and his leering smile turned my stomach. “I’ll bet she does.”

* * *

The phone call came at 2 in the morning. Rubbing grit from my eyes, I heard Covington’s voice grate in my ear. “Meet me outside of 381 Monroe, half an hour. Don’t be late.” He hung up before I could say anything, and I rolled out of bed with a sudden flare of hope.

27 minutes later, we were standing in a light rain underneath a burnt out street light. Covington was speaking. “We’re dealing here with someone who has a hell of a lot more prestige and power than I do. This building belongs to Nikolai Belandros.”

At first the name meant nothing. “Who?”

“World-wide explorer. Big game hunter. Owns diamond mines in Africa. He’s 80 but supposedly looks 50, and he owns this entire skyscraper.” Covington ground out his cigar and pulled his dark trench coat around him. “Why does he hate you?”

“I have no idea.” But I did. For a while I supported myself by stealing luggage from the airport and pawning the valuables. One of the bags I grabbed from an international terminal had belonged to this guy. It was filled with all sorts of wooden and cloth knickknacks, some of which I pawned, and the rest of which I had used to feed my fireplace during that long, cold winter. He must have tracked me down somehow. Covington looked at me, and I found myself confessing to him. “But it was just luggage, right?” I concluded worriedly. “Just crappy little knickknacks that no one would even pay for.”

The silence stretched out, and I realized that I may have inadvertently killed the woman I love.

Covington looked at a pocket watch and abruptly turned on his heel to walk away. “We’re going. Stay close to me, keep your mouth shut, and don’t stop to ask questions.” I struggled to keep up, half-running down the sidewalk to catch up to him. Belandros Towers loomed over us like a mountain of glass, a pillar of clouds. Behind us, the burned out street light weakly flickered back to life.

“What are you planning on doing? We not just going to stroll on in there. I cased this place after I stole the guy’s bag. Security is insane.” I tried to catch his eye, but Covington was looking someplace that I couldn’t see. Sweat dripped freely down the detective’s face, and I had no idea why. We approached the locked and heavily guarded front doors.

His voice rasped. “It’s all timing.”

When we were ten feet away, the door lock clicked off and someone swung the door open. “Night, Jerry!” called one of the security guards over his shoulder as he strolled out into the early morning air. “Thanks again for covering. I’ll make the time up.” Someone inside swore good-naturedly in a strong southern accent, and the departing guard turned right without glancing in our direction. Covington caught the edge of the closing door with one hand, swung it back open, and never even slowed as he sauntered into the building. I followed.

The metal detector had been turned off when the building closed, and we walked right past it. Over the muzak I heard a toilet flush from somewhere. Only one guard was in sight, but he was bent over and fishing under his desk for a dropped pencil. I held my breath. He started to stand up as we passed, bumped his head on the bottom of the desk, and stayed under the desk rubbing his head. He stood up at about the same time his partner came out of the men’s room, but by then we were around the corner and out of sight. Ahead of us down the hall, an empty elevator opened its inviting doors without anyone pushing a button.

We strolled into the car, and with a thrill of horror I heard the door open on an elevator right next to us. A guard walked out just as our own doors silently slid shut, and we were quickly ascending.

Covington wiped sweat from his brow. “The security cameras?” I asked him.

“The man watching them got a phone call.”

“The electronic alarms?”

“Being serviced today.”

“How did you just do that? Did you pay someone off? Crap, if I could do that I’d be the richest man in the city!” For a second I almost forgot Anna, and then I remembered why I was there. She was my one chance to go straight, and I loved her for it.

Covington looked at me with shadowed, beady eyes as he slumped against the elevator wall and shrugged lopsidedly as he tried to catch his breath. “It’s just good timing.”

Then we reached the fifteenth floor, as far as this elevator would go. The doors slid open, and in front of me was a giraffe. At first I thought I was seeing things. An actual giraffe! It looked at us through the dimness before it dipped its neck gracefully and wandered away through a small forest. I blinked, but Covington just grunted. “I’d heard rumors that Belandros had imported animals to make his own zoo. Supposedly he trains ‘em to be vicious, and then hunts ‘em. I just didn’t expect it to be in the skyscraper. Look out for lions.” The giraffe rustled the foliage as it moved away, and I jumped. My fear didn’t stop me from looking around for something to steal while I was there.

We moved through the building, taking the wide ramps from floor to floor. We met no one. The furnishings here were worth millions, and I had to restrain myself. On almost every floor we found a different selection of animals; huge white tigers, rhinoceros, elephants, even a sandy-floored aviary full of raptors. Opposite the door to the stairs on every floor was the mounted head of some huge game animal, such as crocodiles or hippos or elk. And on the top floor, the decapitated head of my own goggle-eyed mother.

It stopped me in my tracks.

“Like it?” A croaking voice wheezed from down the hall. I looked, and saw an incredibly ancient man in a mechanized wheelchair. He may have had tubes sticking in his arms, but he also had a huge elephant gun resting in his lap and pointing right towards us. A bizarre Asian woman with tall blue hair stood beside him. She looked like some horrible cross between a beetle and a girl, and she stood with one hand protectively resting on the ancient man’s shoulder. “I made it especially for you, Mister Strom. But there will be many, many more.” He leaned towards me, and a trail of spittle dribbled from his toothless mouth. “You owe me.”

I started towards him, the bug woman moved faster, and everything went dark.

* * *

Someone was slapping me. I opened my eyes; it was the strange bug woman. When she realized I was awake she turned and changed, becoming a large beetle that buzzed over towards the ancient Belandros before becoming a person once again. He no longer carried the elephant gun, but he didn’t need it.

Covington leaned over to help me up. My throat screamed with pain where the woman had been holding me. “She’s a yokai, boy. A Japanese bug demon. At least now we know how he moved your wife.” He looked pale under the layer of perspiration and grime. “Best stall for time. I’m working on something.”

Belandros cackled and pointed towards a thick glass window opening into the aviary. Thirty feet below us on the other side of the glass, I watched Anna’s three year old niece Melissa toddle across the sand in her diapers. Seconds later, I watched a trained raptor swoop in for the kill. There was nothing I could do. At first I could even hear her scream through the glass. My heart broke, and I turned towards Belandros as he spoke.

“You stole my luggage, boy. You stole the talisman that had been keeping me alive, that had been keeping me from aging for thirty eight years. And you threw it in the fire!” His thin voice rose to a scream, and he began to cough uncontrollably. “I aged thirty eight years in one day. So now I’m taking from you everything you’ve ever loved. Taking it all, one piece at a time. I think we’ll start with one of your eyes, move on to your uncle and some crocodiles, and then,” his eyes glittered. “Your wife. I have a white tiger specially picked out for the dear. I think I’ll let her free in their enclosure and let them hunt her, while you watch. Well… partially watch. You could run to her, but I’ll have cut your hamstrings by then.”

He gestured with one palsied hand and the yokai was next to me once more. A pale claw-like hand wrapped around my throat as she lifted me from the ground, squeezing. Her blue hair twitched as if it were antennae, and her compound eyes shone with bloodlust underneath blue skin. Her right claw came up to my face, one long nail slowly pointing towards my eyeball.

“Slowly,” giggled Belandros in senile glee.

“Put him down,” growled Covington. “He’s paying my bill.”

Belandros squinted. “What are you going to do about it, wizard? I know charms and spells from a dozen dark cultures. You are no match for me. There is nothing you can conjure that I can not stop.”

Covington scowled. “Really? Let’s see if you can counterspell this.” From under his jacket he pulled out an ancient revolver and pressed it to the demon’s skull. Her claw was just caressing the tip of my eye when he fired twice. She jerked hideously, the slugs spraying ichor across me as they shattered her exoskeleton. She fell, chittering.

Covington stalked towards the shocked old man, gesturing with the smoking gun instead of with his cigar. “Belandros, you’ve tried my patience. You do know more art than I do, no question about it. The problem is,” he tapped one finger on his unshaven chin thoughtfully, “when you’re old and half-senile you just can’t remember how to use any of it.” Their eyes met, and fear suddenly blossomed like a hothouse flower.

Covington’s voice was almost a hiss. “I’ve been thinking about it, Belandros. My client here may be a light-fingered punk, but he didn’t steal anything from you that you hadn’t already stolen from someone – or somewhere – else. You, however, have killed at least two members of his family. I’ve just killed your demon, so that leaves just one crime unanswered. We need to balance the scales. You of all people should know that.”

Belandros began backing his wheelchair away up the ramp. Coincidentally, the battery on his chair died suddenly and it sputtered to a halt. The old man flicked the small switch impotently, and Covington continued. “I shouldn’t be the one to settle the score, though. These animals are innocents in this, and you’ve stripped them from their homes and flown them here to be your amusement and your prey. I think, Nikolai,” and Covington smiled coldly as his voice turned hard, “that they might like some revenge.”

He said it, and just like that we all knew it to be true. We suddenly heard elephants trumpeting on the floor above us as they battered down the walls of their enclosure. We knew that it was happening on every single floor, and we knew it was just a matter of time.

“Feel free to run, Nikolai.” The wheelchair finally restarted, and the feeble old hunter whirred down the hall away from us as fast as he could. Above us, the ramps began to groan with weight. “It’s only a matter of time.”

* * *

We leaned on the railing of an overpass and watching the spectacle below. Belandros had managed to get out of the building and get a decent head start, but the animals could somehow sense him. The faster moving beasts had chased the old man through the streets of the city and out into snarled early morning traffic. Just now, they were stampeding after him into an underpass beneath the city. He shouldn’t have kept cheetahs. Beneath us, a petroleum truck that hadn’t heard the news headed over the hill and down into the already crowded underpass.

“It’s a tough break, kid. His death might not save her. You know that, don’t you?”

Anna’s body was safe. So was my uncle’s, and so was several hundred thousand dollars worth of art from Belandros’ home. But they may never wake up, I was responsible for the death of my mom, and I’d have to somehow tell Anna’s sister what had happened. Maybe it would be best if no one did ever remember those people. No one but me. I was praying the paralysis would fade once the old man was dead. I was praying that I could forgive myself.

“I know.” We were silent for a moment, even as a terrible screeching and a crunch came from the tunnel. “So where did you get the gun, Mr. Covington?”

He smiled a wintery smile and lit a cigar. “I never travel without it. People just forget to check. Lucky, I guess. But you know what isn’t lucky?”

“Besides me? No, what?”

Louie settled back to look down into the tunnel, just as a tremendous fireball burst upwards. The hot breeze blew back our hair and seared our eyeballs. The tanker had blown.

“Being trapped between a jackknifed tanker truck and an angry hippo when the truck explodes.” We pondered that for a few minutes as the fire burned. The smell of cooking meat was carried on the blazing wind. If there was some kind of moral in it, I couldn’t find it. Maybe I had my revenge. I just hoped I had my wife, too.

“Oh, and kid? Call me Louie. Don’t stiff me on the rest of my bill. And give me back my watch.”

I did, and shrugged. Then I turned away to hunt down Anna, and to find out whether or not death had restored life.

I could feel Louie’s eyes on my back as I walked away. I didn’t turn around.

-- x --


"Honey? The bad news is, I got your niece eaten by a hawk. The good news is, you won't have to deal with a mother-in-law.


Mythago, your story is fantastic. I'm humbled.


First Post


I'm a happy happy person, a happy happy person I'm a happy person

'cause I don't have to judge!!

(boy, howdy, am I glad I don't have to judge these.)

But Piratecat, I admit, when I saw the bug corset photo, I was really hoping for some Boston Beacons action.

But your actual version is so good, I think I'll contain my disappointment.

Congrats to both of you on a gorgeous final round! [/sialia]
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"Dammit, I lose more nieces that way..."

I have some happy things to say about your story but I'm a gonna wait for the judges first.


First Post
this may be the best ceramic dm ever.....

i have to go to the doc, then build a bunch of fence for the horse who arrives this afternoon. we will probably have a judgement up this evening.



Registered User
Holy smokes. Very glad not to be a judge.

mythago and Sialia... I just couldn't resist Piratecat's bait...er, challenge. I tried to marry the two stories together, but couldn't do both and in the end the Planter's escapee was just too attractive.

Can't wait to see the outcome.


Sparky said:
Which? The first to-be-continued one?

That one. I mean, we've got all this time to kill while the judges are hard at work.

It beats waiting to see what happens next with alsih2o's gnome...

p.s.: Yes, Piratecat, you were the inspiration for the .sig change. (They don't call them .sigs anymore, though, do they...)
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Sure they do! Or at least I do.

Your .sig is great. It reminds me of a good friend of Sialia's and mine - a guy who when he talks to you, makes you feel like you're the most interesting thing he's ever run into. Ask her about him some time.

You know what I think? I think the 4 second-round competitors should provide a photo each, and when the judging is done we should make all three judges provide us with a story, too. :D

Sparky, may I please offer another vote for you to continue your previous story? It needs finishing, and I want to know what happens!
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Piratecat said:
Your .sig is great. It reminds me of a good friend of Sialia's and mine - a guy who when he talks to you, makes you feel like you're the most interesting thing he's ever run into. Ask her about him some time.
Sure, if I can get her to stop gibbering and clawing out her own eyes for a minute...

I'm all over that make-the-judges-sweat idea.


First Post
Piratecat said:
Sparky, may I please offer another vote for you to continue your previous story? It needs finishing, and I want to know what happens!
I'd sure be in favor of seeing what Sparky would have done with the final round photos . . . Although I'd settle for seeing the rest of her novella without it being photo driven.

I was pretty sure I was reading one of those teaser chapters for a much longer work when I read her round 1 submission . . . and if I'd gotten that far, I'd have surely walked out of the bookstore with the rest of the novel in hand.

Which brings up an interesting point: I'd like to see Piratecat and Mytahgo each give the stories one more polish and then submit 'em off for a publication somewhere and see what happens. (They'd only need the polish 'cause the publisher wouldn't be grading on "use of required elements") If you didn't have to use these illustrations, would the story still stand?

I think they're both prety fine.

Maybe one of our goodies for the next annual fund raiser would be a pdf version of all the top Ceramic GM stories.

Just a thought.

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